Sex in the Media

Barrie Gunter

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Sex in the Media


Mediated sex is a prevalent attribute of most forms of public entertainment. Sexual scenarios permeate fictional and factual storytelling across all the major media—books, cinema, magazines, newspapers, radio, television, and now the Internet. Although media sex undoubtedly draws attention from media consumers and is a source of titillation and enjoyment, there are concerns about the nature of many mediated sexual portrayals and the social lessons they might teach. The main concerns are that sexual portrayals cause offense or embarrassment to people, encourage young people to become sexually active before they are ready, undermine social values and moral standards, and in extreme cases cultivate socially dangerous attitudes and behaviors. There is growing concern about the increased availability of highly explicit sexual content, especially via the Internet. Even the mainstream media have been challenged for progressively pushing back the boundaries in terms of what they will publish. Nonpornographic magazines that contain multiple images of naked young woman are openly sold in retail outlets, and mainstream movies and television programs increasingly depict full-frontal nudity and explicit, albeit simulated, scenes of sexual intercourse. Nonexplicit portrayals of sex have given rise to concern because of the lessons they can allegedly teach about sexual relationships and the contexts in which such intimacy occurs. Sexual promiscuity and infidelity are frequently featured and could affect media consumers’ ideas about the acceptability of such practices. The risks associated with promiscuous behavior, from contracting sexual transmitted diseases to unwanted pregnancy, are seldom considered. In more explicit pornographic materials, there are worries about the prevalence of degrading representations of women. Women are depicted as willing and submissive participants in sex acts that are driven and controlled by the needs of men, thus symbolically legitimizing sexual violence. The presence of graphic sexual content on the Internet has further exacerbated public concerns about mediated sex because of the ease with which such content can be accessed, especially by children. All these issues and concerns have been addressed by an extensive and growing body of research. The entries cited in this bibliography represent a number of key studies in the field. Each of these publications, in turn, contains its own bibliography through which readers can discover other relevant studies about media and sex.

Article.  9313 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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